In April of 2015, the governor of Arkansas and the General Assembly proclaimed suicide “the leading cause of injury death in Arkansas and an urgent and serious public health and welfare problem in the state.”
At the time, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in Arkansas, and more than twice as many people died by suicide annually than from homicide. In 2019, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ranked suicide as the 10th leading cause of death among Arkansans and ranked Arkansas ninth in the nation.
To create a better social world, we must change our behavior and how we communicate — both listening and talking — about mental health. Instead of trying to reframe the conversation, people can opt to become trained as mental health supporters, engage as a mental health advocates and consistently aspire to be empathetic.
Become a mental health supporter
One does not need a psychology or sociology degree to become a mental health supporter. A number of community-based programs provide practical training for people of all ages.
Family-to-Family by National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session educational program for family, significant others, and friends of people with mental health conditions. It is a designated evidenced-based program that improves the coping and problem-solving abilities of the people closest to a person with a mental health condition. Family-to-Family is taught by NAMI-trained and experienced family members and features presentations, discussions, and interactive exercises.
Mental Health First Aid by the National Council for Behavioral Health: Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.
SafeTALK by LivingWorks: SafeTALK is a training program that teaches participants to recognize and engage persons who might be having thoughts of suicide and to connect them with community resources for suicide intervention. SafeTALK stresses safety while challenging taboos that inhibit open talk about suicide. The “Safe” in SafeTALK stands for “suicide alertness for everyone.” TALK stands for the actions one takes to help those with suicidal thoughts: “tell, ask, listen and keep safe.”
“More Than Sad” by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: More Than Sad has taught more than a million students and educators how to be smart about mental health and it benefits high school students, parents and teachers.
Talk Saves Lives by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Talk Saves Lives is a community-based presentation that covers the general scope of suicide, the research on prevention and what people can do to fight suicide. Attendees will learn the risks and warning signs of suicide and how, together, we can help prevent it.
ASIST by LivingWorks: ASIST teaches trainees how to conduct a skilled intervention and develop a collaborative safety plan to keep someone safe and alive.
Become a mental health advocate
Volunteer your time, treasures or talents to a mental health organization. The following have local chapters and need support:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): The AFSP is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death. A gift to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention helps fund its mission to save lives and give hope to those affected by suicide. All donations to AFSP are tax-deductible. To learn more about AFSP, call (888) 333-AFSP.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI builds communities where compassion, experience, and support help people. All donations to NAMI are tax-deductible. To learn more, call (703) 524-7600.
Aspire to be empathetic.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It has been said that empathy cannot be taught, but it can be inspired. See the enlightening video below on exactly that:
There is an additional step you can take to improve our social world. Schedule a mental health assessment with your doctor. Many people are unaware they have a mental health issue, and it’s far better to know than to go untreated.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing an increase in the number of people with anxiety, depression and substance use disorder. The BridgeWay is taking proactive steps to keep patients and team members safe while serving the needs of the community. It actively monitors and responds to all recommendations made by the CDC and local regulatory and health authorities. Together we can change the local and national narratives about suicide and suicide prevention to those that promote hope, connectedness, social support, resilience, treatment and recovery.